On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Apr 11, 2018

Meghan Leahy, a parenting coach with Positively Parenting, joined On Parenting editor Amy Joyce to talk about parenting children of all ages.

Morning, On Parenting fans. We're here to discuss all things parenting with Meghan Leahy. Here's her column from today, which, like so much of her advice, points to the need to start from the beginning: A connection. And her column from last week, about whether to force an introverted son to have play dates. Check out On Parenting for much more, including my piece about how teachers are much more negative about device usage than parents are. What do you think? (PS: It's National Pet Day and here's a piece about research that shows kids and dogs are good together.)

Okay, lots to discuss... let's get to it. 

One of the most difficult things is when someone you care about is suffering and there's not a lot you can do about it. The suggestion just to be there, to hold space and to let the person know you care is huge. I was reading an item on Facebook about kids' answers to 'what is love'. One boy went over to sit in the lap of his elderly neighbor, who was sad because his wife had died. His mother asked what the boy said and he answered - nothing, I was helping him cry. Sometimes that's all we can do - and it's sufficient.

Thank you. And boy, kids sure can just get to the real part of it all, can't they? 

I have twin boys (2 yrs old) and one is constantly bullying the other taking toys, pushing him pulling his hair. I have tried timeout but I don't think he gets it, he won't sit where I put him and stay there so I have to sit with him to keep him there and then he sometimes thinks that's fun. Is there something I can do at this age to teach him to not hurt his brother?



So, Google videos of baby bears and baby gorillas playing with each other. There is a lot, and I repeat, A LOT of tussling and teasing and wrestling and general shenanigans happening. And while it takes two to tango, there often does seem to be one animal (or child) who does more of the poking and playing. It is VERY natural for this to be happening: you have two VERY immature creature in your care. They have each other to poke and steal from, and poke and steal, they will.


This doesn’t mean that you do NOTHING. It means that you accept that it is natural and will be like this for quite a while.


You are also discovering that time-out’s don’t work. They just don’t.


So, this is A LOT OF parenting work. This is monitoring them, not allowing them to torture each other, while also allowing some this to happen (you cannot monitor everything). You will have get the one who is bullying busy with other stuff while also scooping him up with firm and clear, “NO. NO HAIR-PULLING.”


This will feel interminable and awful and annoying, so PLEASE get help in whatever way you can. I recommend being outside as much as physically possible. I recommend finding parents of twins, especially boys to commiserate with. I recommend babysitting, a mother’s helper, daycare, family, ANYTHING, to give you a break. 


This will pass and you cannot ignore it, but give yourself a break with the step-sitting….it ain’t gonna work.


Hi Meghan, I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first kid. I am the first in my extended family (of this generation) and my friend group to be expecting. We are apparently all late bloomers because I am 30. Either way, I don't have a close person to ask a lot of questions to without the concern of the potentially outdated advice from some of my well-meaning older relatives. It seems like new moms are constantly tracking how much milk their newborns are getting. I see a lot of mom forums with very specific details about ounces and timing in feedings. I am curious as to how people figure that out. Other than checking in with a pediatrician on a regular basis, how do women plan out how much to feed and when? I hope to breastfeed if possible, so how would I know the exact amount that my baby is getting? My mom's answer to all questions is- the baby will be fine, which isn't really helpful. Thanks!

Oh boy, stay clear of the forums, I REPEAT, STAY CLEAR OF THE MOM FORUMS. If you don’t have an anxiety disorder yet, you will have one in quick order if you visit those places.

I don’t want to say, “don’t worry about this until you have to,” but DON’T WORRY ABOUT THIS UNTIL YOU HAVE TO. 

The truth is, all that old advice the other generations have? It isn’t wrong or bad. Babies haven’t changed in, well, FOREVER, in terms of knowing how much milk they need, and every mom on Earth has figured it out.

Some moms struggle mightily with their little ones for a HUGE variety of reasons; some moms glide ride into breast and bottle feeding.

You mostly never need to worry about amount of milk or formula the baby is getting unless there is a weight gain problem. And if you have a pediatrician you love and trust, he or she will hold your hand through this practice. It is mind-boggling and scary, but every baby is different and every baby is the same, and it will work out. IT WILL.

So, everyone has advice, take it or not....but just enjoy your pregnancy, have some good books lined up for reference (I suggest going to a good old fashioned book store and perusing what speaks to YOU), and stop feeding your worries with facts and details you may not need.

Your experience will be your own and you are up for the challenge.




Your Post Points code today is OP4081

My daughter "Taylor" is 7 and recently has been coming home and talking a lot about religion. We are close friends with multiple families who belong to a church in our area. I have absolutely nothing against Christians but I made a conscious decision when I had Taylor that she would be raised without any kind of religion (I don't believe in it and I didn't really want my daughter to be exposed to it). Now Taylor has been coming home from school and talking about whether God is watching her and whether she is going to hell, which has been unsettling for me. Now she's asking to be allowed to go to church (she wants me to take her, but said she wouldn't mind if she went with her friends' families instead). How should I handle this? Is this as weird to you as it is to me? I'm not a fan of my 7-year-old​ worrying about hell.

Hmmm, I mean, no this is not weird. My best friend has two kids and her family is not church-going. Her daughter started going to church with friends around 8 or 9 and truly felt called. My friend went here and there (to share openness and solidarity and to make sure the church wasn’t a cult), but otherwise, she didn’t sweat it. 

The point is? Just as you chose a path for you, your daughter is her own person and can choose her own path, too. Of course you have to stay watchful and present, but I would look at this as cultural experiment more than the big G-O-D or H-E-L-L thing.

In fact, hell is such an important concept historically, artistically, in literature, in war, in well, EVERYTHING, that this is a cool opportunity to visit this concept as just that - a CONCEPT. It really does serve as a way to keep many people in line, and that’s interesting, isn’t it?

My take? Try not to be afraid, stay curious.

We had a Golden Retriever/lab mix when my kids were young. My younger son went through a stage, around age 5, when he was truly afraid of monsters under the bed. He was afraid to get undressed in his room. I advised him to have the dog inspect his room before he had to undress, because the dog would bark if there were any monsters there. He did this for at least six months and it took all the stress away from undressing and dressing, and eventually he got over his fear.

Couldn't love this more. Thanks. 

Awww, love dogs!

I am the survivor of domestic violence and in the process of getting a divorce. We have a 3-year-old son together and my son sees his dad every other Saturday and Sunday during the day and once a week for dinner.  My son’s daycare provider referred him to free therapy in our county and his therapist comes to his daycare every couple weeks to work with him. It's therapy for very young children dealing with traumatic situations. In addition he also sees a play therapist once a week. This was partly a recommendation from his trauma therapist but partly from me observing some behaviors that concerned me.  He has never been physically abused that I’m aware of and only witnessed verbal abuse of me. He may have heard many things when he was supposed to be sleeping when he was a baby.  My concern, how do I discern if he is only exhibiting normal toddler behavior or if I really should continue these therapies and for how long? I am a firm believer that a good therapist can make a world of a difference and I believe I’m only alive because I started seeing one when I was eight months pregnant ( hiding it from my now soon to be ex-husband) and eventually admitted to myself that I was in a domestic violence situation.  However, does  a 3-year-old who otherwise is advanced for his age need this much therapy or can I stop it once the divorce is final or what to do? his trauma therapist recommends continuing but she will only be available as long as he is in daycare and the play therapist when she first started said some kid resolve everything within 2 to 3 months and others it takes longer. [edited slightly for length]

Frist of all, congrats for leaving and getting your son so much support.

Keep him in therapy.

Pleay therapy for children who are still getting their language skills together is very important. Because trauma actually changes a child’s brain and his attachments, early intervention and play therapy can help to re-establish safety and a language around big feelings, fear, and anger.

Without freaking you out, I want you to know that this may be a process that will rear its head when you least expect it, so please read up and find some really good support in understanding trauma and the brain. I love Laura Reagan, she does an excellent podcast and is well-versed in trauma.

Good luck and KEEP GOING!

My 5yo son is generally cautious and shy around people, other than immediate family , around whom he talks non stop and engages fully. When we have extended family over or other occasions where it would be appropriate for him to say “hello, goodbye, thank you, etc” he refuses. We don’t force him to physically hug but we do want him to respond to a greeting and say “thank you” when appropriate. We have tried walking over to the person with him and preparing him ahead of time of what we expect, to no avail. What can we do? We love his personality and don’t want to “force” him to change or be uncomfortable, we also don’t want him to be viewed as rude. Help!

So, he is normal for his age and is probably normal for his temperament.

Don’t push. So what is people think he is rude? Who is more important? Your kid or other people? 

Until he finds his comfort zone, you do the speaking for him. For instance, “Jake loved having dinner, thank you so much for having us!” And you big Jake next to your side. Or, “Hello! Jake and I are so happy to be here!” And you hug the person while Jake stands by your side. Easy.

So, lay off completely, but in the meanwhile, start role-modeling what saying hello and goodbye looks like at home. Practice what hello’s, thank you’s, and goodbye’s feel right for him and then make a game of them! 

And this is so normal that every older children need help. My 14 year old just came back from traveling and I told her, “your family is going to ask you a hundred questions about your trip, pick three or four points you want to highlight.” It was a just a little road map so she didn’t feel assaulted.

Take it slow, he will get there!

Good morning! I'm in NY and there are state assessment tests my 4th grader has to take yearly (three hours for two days, for both reading and math). There is a high opt out percentage in our area and our district specifically is at 60% refusal rates. My daughter is begging me not to take the test but I don't see any good reason not too. I had to take tests when I was a kid and her only reason not to take them is because a lot of her classmates won't be sitting for the exam. How do I convey to her that certain things in life shouldn't be avoided and she should just do her best? Or maybe I need to re-evaluate my stance but I really don't think 'because I don't want to' is a good reason to opt-out of test. Thanks!


Your daughter is old enough to have a pretty mature conversation with you, so it is okay to be ambivalent about these tests and talk to her about your mixed feelings.

”On one hand I can see how these tests are unpopular and don’t reflect your learning. On the other hand, we don’t opt out of things because everyone else does. What do you think, honey?”

More important than the test is the conversation around what is means, what is doesn’t, and how we live according to our principles.

Do that and see where is gets you.



Thank you, the reassurance i’m Doing the right thing is helpful. I’ll do some research and keep him in therapy. I’m keeping myself in too because it’s so helpful, just wasn’t sure about him because he can’t always verbalize. For what it’s worth, his dad hasn’t said anything one way or another and I currently have sole decision making authority but have to send his dad and Guardian ad litem reports as we work through the divorce. More resources are helpful

Yes, assemble good experts. The safer your son feels now, the better for later.

You should feel proud for leaving and doing this work...it’s hard but you are saving your life (and your son’s).

Thanks for joining us, folks. Make sure to keep an eye on Meghan's column... your question may be answered there. And please join us again April 25 for our next On Parenting chat. You can sign up for our newsletter here, check us out on social media or just come to the Post. Thanks for joining us today. 

In This Chat
Amy Joyce
Amy Joyce has been at The Post, well, for a long time. Her first foray in to online chats were related to work. Now she's happy to chat about fun (but would like to believe the two can be one). She has been a Business reporter, editor for Weekend and the Going Out guide, and is now editing and writing for OnParenting. When not at work, she can be seen unsuccessfully dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
Meghan Leahy
Meghan Leahy is a D.C.-based parent coach. She holds a master’s degree in school counseling from Johns Hopkins, taught high school English, and was a Parent Educator with PEP. She is the mom of three girls.
Recent Chats
  • Next: